Have you noticed how different most men and women are when shopping?

My two sons’ idea of shopping involves cruising a store, grabbing the bare necessities, and then pulling out the plastic (my plastic, in this case) with a quick “I’m done. Hopefully forever.”

For men, shopping is like hunting. Seize what you want, from aftershave to sports cars with names that only foreigners can pronounce to underwear, and get out.

We women also big-game hunt when shopping, but we like to scout a little before closing in on the game. Every clothing item is an opportunity to become a different self. It is little girl dress-up all over again, except we’re big girls now. From homemaker to glamour queen, from businesswoman to Bob the Builder, just like that.

What are we two different genders really looking for?

Valentine’s season invites this question, whether we are in an opposite sex, a same-sex, or no sex relationship. Our shopping lists are different, and it’s not about the ‘stuff’. In a traditional sense, the search neatly divides as significance versus security.

The Male Side

I believe that men traditionally seek significance before all else. Significance is purposeful value. A Jaguar, a Rolex, a pair of Oakleys.

Studies show that men feel most satisfied when appreciated, reassured, and recognized by their mates. This predisposition is organic and tribal. Men are biologically programmed to take care of women, the non-expendable perpetrators of the species. As some sociologists see it, the original “pay” for serving as bodyguard and provider was appreciation. The man who could defend, sustain, safeguard, and advise (though I have no idea who taught them they should fix a woman’s emotions) was certainly NOT expendable. He was significant. In turn, he enabled safety for himself and his loved ones.

I see this tendency in my own sons. Although I have been divorced for several years and self-sufficient forever, my ten-year-old looked at me recently and said, “You know mom, it’s weird to be the man of the family.” His older brother, who lives at college, performs the same role long-distance through a continual RFS feed oriented toward advising me how to manage my life. He was more instructional about how to cook Christmas Dinner than was Betty Crocker.

How about women?

There is no mystery that most women are programmed for security. Per biology, women insure tomorrow. We bear children; we carry hope. We are also physically weaker, in addition to being mysteriously more emotional and intuitive. Women define logic in a way that only a man would consider illogical. The sum total of these inherited traits is that women innately value security.

I perceive this desire in nearly all my female clients, as well as in myself. We want to feel safe: safe financially, safe emotionally, safe when courted, safe in relationship, and that they can assure safety for their children.

We can see why the two sexes decided to sponsor a Gender Summit and over a good cup of coffee, create the Pact of Mutual Satisfaction. The work assignments? Men give women security; women assure men of their significance. We have all carried our shopping lists around ever since and have yet to find satisfaction, regardless the relationship shopping we do.

The Outcome of Our Shopping Lists

It is little surprise that women are anything but safe. Of American women, 30% are domestically abused. This percentage is typical in major countries around the world and as high as 75% in some locales. 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18 and 1 in 4 college women are raped. We think, because approximately half of all sexual violations are reported to the police.

Cross the border into second and third world countries and the “national security” figures becomes even more staggering. Of rural Egyptian women surveyed, 80% are commonly beaten, usually for refusing sex. Roughly 90% of Pakistan’s women are subjected to verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse within their own homes, and overall, 1 in 3 girls will be beaten in her lifetime. This set of statistics is only one amongst many.

No Happy Valentine’s Day here.

Do these statistics imply that men are winning in this ultimate of consignment games? No. Domestic abuse toward men is on the rise, as is the reported evidence of childhood sexual abuse, which currently affects 1 in 6 American boys. Rape and enslavement of boys are horrifying issues in countries including the Philippines, Uganda, Burundi, and the African Republic. I would argue the pressure to join gangs, rebel and terrorist groups, makeshift battalions, and even the traditional military is a form of pressurized abuse.

The truth is that you cannot witness or participate in violence without being seriously injured. 70% of all male violent offenders in the United States emerged from violent homes. Children who are abused or neglected are 40% more likely to become criminals as adults. These statistics do not accommodate what I consider the worst form of male-oriented victimization: subjugation to institutions. The so-called corporate good life seldom is, accounting for much of the pressure that results in high levels of alcoholism, sex addiction, and recreational drug abuse. Abuse creates abuse.

Breaking Away From the Lists

On the most simplistic level, we are seeing the results of believing that two halves can make a whole. They do not.

On the energetic level, which is my professional specialty, we are talking about the energy of love, which if shared freely, exponentially increases, and when hoarded, exponentially decreases.

Energy is simply information that vibrates. Love is a collective desire. It is also the true source of personal nourishment. Love created the world but also keeps it going. Without it, what farmer would remain in the field as winds sweep away the seed? What parent would cradle the hungry child when there is no hope of food? What orphan would pray for parents that never come? We live for love and love keeps us living, for sometimes, love produces a miracle. A seed that grows. A neighbor bearing food. A grandparent, a friend, or a stranger, who loves when no one else can.

When we constrict love, when we reduce people to their gender and gender-perceived needs, the energy that could blossom, heal, or flourish dissipates. Everyone loses.

As long as only men are supposed to be significant, women will never be safe. You must be considered important to be counted. If you don’t count, you are expendable. An expendable woman lives in fear and terror. A frightened person cannot contribute to the greater good, much less her own life or those of her children.

As long as only women are supposed to be secure, to be emotionally supported, protected, and nurtured, men will never know themselves as truly significant. A tender touch, ironically, creates a stable personality. An unstable man will always be ashamed of his own behavior. He will know himself as insignificant no matter how much money he has, porn magazines he can read, or women he can hurt.

Conclusion

For some of us, these statements might seem extreme. After all, we live in America, where we are assured security and the opportunity for significance. I wonder. Each time a woman comes into my office wondering if it is okay to leave a battering husband; each time a man sits before me crying because he hates his job or doesn’t know his children; I wonder. And I think that love must be the answer, a love that walks through the walls of gender and into our everyday hearts.

As shared by Robert Heinlein, who wrote The Cat Who Walks Through Walls,

“Love” is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

As he said in a different time and place:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

May we all be equally important to each other and excellent by ourselves.